bill bodkin brings it back for the third time….
This column finds my pop culture mind between major events from last week and the upcoming events of next week. Last week was all about the mind-blowing Inception; next week it’s the triumphant return of Mad Men to AMC as well as the return of the ultimate guilty pleasure- MTV’s Jersey Shore. (I wonder if Don Draper subscribes to the “Gym, Tan, Laundry” theory.) However there are a few nuggets of pop culture that I’m sinking my teeth into this week.
Movies: After a Month on The Shelf, Here’s My Most Recent Netflix Picks
Amelie is the type of movie that you really, really fall in love with in college. It’s the type of movie kids with horn-rimmed glasses wax poetic over in coffee houses — spending hours analyzing every camera movement, subscribing to it’s idyllic sense of love and whimsy. And they’ll use words like “idyllic” and “whimsy” when describing the film. However, for those of us, post-college, Amelie is not the mind-blowing, soul-shaking, “this movie was written for me” type of film that it might’ve been for us in college. No, today Amelie is more of a cinematic version of a French pastry — fun and delicious yet light and fluffy. Lush imagery, an irresistible performance by Audrey Tatou and a humorous storyline about a gnome that travels the world definitely make this film worth a rental — just forget the hype you heard about it in college.
Much like last week’s column, the evening’s movie watching was a tale of two genres — a lighthearted comedy and a disappointing drama. The drama in question is Invictus. I can remember seeing the trailer for this film last fall and thinking this would definitely be nominated for Best Picture, especially with the field expanded to 10 films. It looked like it had it all — acclaimed actors (Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon), a rich subject matter (Mandela wants the South African rugby team to be his symbol of racial unification by winning the world cup), a legendary director (Clint Eastwood) and the epic and gripping stuff all sports movies are made of (sweeping visuals combined with lump in the throat heroics). In February I was shocked to see only Damon getting a supporting actor nod.
However, after watching the film, I can see why the Academy denied it a slew of nominations. The film is plodding, unengaging, overdrawn and uninspired. Freeman is solid yet not amazing as Mandela while Damon is completely undeserved of his supporting actor nomination — not because he’s a bad actor (I usually enjoy his work) but his role is severely one-note and underdeveloped. What’s the most appalling is that the sports sequences are so dull. Usually a sense of drama in the game, even in silly movies like The Replacements, can make a bad movie passable. But in this film, the rugby sequences are so dull and so long, that you just want the film to end. In essence, Eastwood, usually aces when he makes films, misses the mark.
Music: Cousins by Vampire Weekend
Brent Johnson and Brooke Bates both did excellent jobs talking about songs that define their summer. So, instead of posting my top picks I’ve decided to post my new favorite summertime jam — “Cousins” by Vampire Weekend. The rapid fire drumming and high-energy guitar are reminiscent of the classic surf rock sound perfected by legends like Dick Dale and Jan & Dean. The lyrics are silly and nonsensical, but are perfect for cruising the boardwalk. Enjoy.
Television: Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors
Yes, I’m a huge nerd and watch as much pro wrestling as I can. Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors debuted last weekend as part of MTV2’s Balls Out Friday block of programming. It’s an interesting concept, bringing Mexico’s legitimate #2 sport (behind soccer) and packaging as something fresh and new to the masses. With a huge Latin population in the USA combined with a lack of a legitimate Latin wrestling star outside of the mega-popular Rey Mysterio, MTV2 might have a very popular series on their hands. The show reminds me of MTV’s failed Wrestling Society X experiment in 2006 — hyper-editing, overly-excited announcers and a hungry, talented and relatively unknown cast of wrestlers. However, the lucha culture is much different from American pro wrestling, so unlike WSX, this series won’t seem like a WWE knock-off. FYI, if you’re a big nerd like me you’ll recognize luchadors like: La Parka, Lizmark Jr, Halloween, Marco Corleone (Mark Jindrak), Chi Chi (Alan Funk/Kwee Wee) and others as they plancha across your screen.
Food: Stuff Yer Face
This week I’ll be returning to New Brunswick for a meeting with the B&B’s Brent Johnson. I love Hub City; it’s where I spent a very important four years of my life. I learned, I discovered and I ate — very well. One place I ate very well at (and still do) is Stuff Yer Face located on Easton Avenue. This restaurant is known for two things — beer and ‘bolis. Stuff Yer Face has a tremendous beer menu that would take notice of and commend. Want a Dogfish 60 Minute IPA on draft or a pint of Corsedonk Brown Ale to accompany your meal? You got it. Beer aside, SYF is known culinarily as the place in the Hub to get a ‘Boli (which short for stromboli). Sure, you can get a stromboli at any pizzeria in the Bruns, but nothing compares to flaky gold crust, the perfect mixture of piping hot cheese and sauce and the thousands of combinations of toppings you can get with it at Stuff Yer Face. It’s a piece of fried gold — a bountiful treasure indeed. Fun fact for all you foodies — this is where Molto Mario AKA Mario Batali AKA everyone’s favorite culinary ginger nut got his start.
DVD: Another British Gem, Look Around You
If you’re a fan of British comedy, you must do yourself a favor and get the first season of Look Around You when it comes out in America on Tuesday July 20. This show, created and starring Robert Popper and Peter Serafinowicz (of Shaun of the Dead and Couple’s Retreat fame) is an absolutely hilarious and brilliant take-off on those old science videos you used to watch in school — literally. Complete with a monotone narrator, prompts to turn pages in your book and even to hand your answers in at the end of the episode. Bloody brilliant!
Each episode is based around a certain element (Sulphur) or scientific theory (Maths) or something ridiculous (ghosts) and explained/lampooned in a hilariously subtle, whacked out and brilliant way only the British can. There’s very little dialogue in Season 1 from series stars Popper and Serafinowicz, which makes the show even more brilliant. Look for appearances from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, director Edgar Wright and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas and David Walliams in Season 1.
The series has been and it seems like it will be re-run on Adult Swim very late at night. If you want to sample these episodes before you buy the DVD, I recommend checking your local listings for show times.